What we got appropriate and incorrect in coverage of the Paris attacks | Open door

Candles in the colours of the French flag outdoors the Bataclan concert hall, a single of the web sites of the terrorist attacks in Paris on 13 November. They had been lit in a ceremony to spend tribute to victims that was held on Friday, a week after the bombings and shootings. Photograph: Christian Hartmann/Reuters

While it is invidious to rank the bombings and shootings in Paris that killed 130 people against other terrorist attacks, it is undoubtedly one of the most significant in Europe in current years.

For any news organisation to give full and acceptable coverage to acts so devastating is a challenge. As with 9/11 in the US or 7/7 in the UK, reporting is most likely to appear beyond the physical blows to a lot of other parts of the nation’s life.

There are aspects of the substantial coverage provided by the Guardian to the attacks that I believe show an interesting shift in each the journalism and how it has been received by readers, especially on-line.

I believe it is substantial that at the time of writing the readers’ editor’s workplace has received a relatively modest number of emails commenting on the coverage, just 70. These have undoubtedly integrated complaints – I will return to them later – but numerous were straightforward observations, recommendations or even praise.

Some of the complaints have been from folks who received a Saturday paper that had no news of the events in Paris the night just before. The 1st reports came through too late for our 1st edition, which is printed at around 9pm for the west nation and Scotland. As the scale of the attacks became apparent we ran a particular “slip” edition at 11pm, and by the end of the evening 63% of all the papers we printed carried coverage of the attacks. We sold 10,000 added copies on Saturday.

At the heart of the online coverage has been the live blog, a technique of telling a story that fuses original reporting, aggregated news and comment, which can seem as well breathless if not written with care and restraint.

“Never incorrect for long” is not an proper maxim when millions of people are seeking dependable details in a fog of rumour and claim alongside counterclaim.

A series of daily live blogs rotated about the clock through Guardian offices in London, New York and Sydney. A crucial aspect of the way they have been approached was the clear delineation among what was in fact identified and what was getting reported but was unverified.

The reside blogs ran constantly for a week soon after the attacks, and the response from readers was extraordinary. On Friday 13 November, the evening of the attacks, between the initial post at 9.24pm and midnight (UK time) the 1st live weblog was responsible for two.7m web page views. It went on to achieve one more 4m web page views on the Saturday – when there were a total of 13m page views for 75 things of content material on the Paris attacks launched that day.

Readers’ suspicions are often aroused when comments are not opened on a story. Very few stories about the Paris attacks had comments enabled more than the weekend. This was since there were quite few moderators and, regrettably, a considerable quantity of men and women who wanted to leave Islamophobic comments, alongside the many others who wanted to engage in legitimate debate. More than two,500 comments had been posted on an early opinion piece by Natalie Nougayrède.

Photographs are, of course, one more sensitive issue. By Saturday the staff on the image desk were reviewing 13,300 pictures. Roger Tooth, the head of photography, stated: “We did our best to keep away from bodies, and pixelated two faces of victims. We did keep away from employing video of a body getting dragged along an alley next to the club.”

On the Opinion pages, one particular factor taken into consideration was timing – judging when readers would be willing to engage with an concept that in the 1st 24 hours soon after the attacks might have jarred. The idea that these horrific attacks have causes and that one particular of those causes might be the west’s policies is something that in the quick aftermath may inspire anger. Three days later, it’s a point of view that need to be heard.

Among the complaints had been some goods points, many of them about language. For instance, numerous readers objected to the use of the word “mastermind” to describe Abdelhamid Abaaoud, as it appears to celebrate his achievements. I agree. Others have been concerned that we had provided insufficient prominence to the bombings in Beirut on 12 November, which killed 43 men and women.

1 reader was disappointed that a feature on the Muslim victims of the attack opened with this sentence when it was first published on the net: “Their Muslim faith did not spare them from the terrorists’ bullets.” The reader wrote: “I wonder what the writer was attempting to convey in the lead. Certainly this was not a selective attack, and surely it was not the intention of the attackers to only kill men and women of 1 faith. Victims of terror usually come from a wide cross-section of society, it hurts and hits everyone. So even though you would be proper to carry a story saying Muslims also had been amongst those killed, in my view it is a bit insensitive to say their faith did not or could not save them. They were certainly not hoping it would, and I guess we know that it does not.”

I agree, and so did editors when the point was created to them. That line was removed inside hours and was not in print editions.

Journalists naturally want to be 1st with the news, but they have to balance that urge with the restraint needed to separate truth from speculation, specifically in a digital age. So far, I believe the Guardian has accomplished a excellent job in showing that restraint.

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